“God says, ‘I’d love to help him out, but he hasn’t bought a ticket.'”
The average man wouldn’t question whether they are a good person. Certainly, James (Dan Stevens) doesn’t. He prays every day. He lives simply, and he is thankful for his lot in life. Zack Galler serves as the film’s cinematographer and recreates what James views for the audience as a kaleidoscope of lights and shadows. When James awakens the next morning with his vision restored, Galler offers a brilliant display for him to behold. Sun-drenched drapes invite him to see the newfound world outside.
A visit to the doctor’s office reveals that this isn’t some divine gift, rather the pituitary tumor pressing on his occipital nerve has shrunk. As he gazes at the peeling floral wallpaper, James questions, “what now?” Opportunities that were previously unavailable are now ripe for picking. To compensate James’ work ethic becomes decidedly more predatory. Rebranding the mortgage company as a community financial advisor brings in far more customers, but at a price. When he faces accusations of being an asshole, James conflates it with just being human. Nice suits and coifed hair mark a new appearance; one that catches the eye of alluring co-worker Jessica (Kerry Bishé). But soon James finds that having his vision back won’t prevent being blinded by a more material lifestyle. Yes, it’s a metaphor that lacks a certain nuance, yet Ido Fluk grounds it within the consequences that James’ choices force him into. The script never feels saccharine, though it will come as a challenge to focus solely on a character many will find selfishly arrogant. The audience sees as James sees, for better or worse.
It’s a credit to the script, written by Fluk and Sharon Mashihi, that both James and Sam are complexly drawn characters. In a lesser film, the other supporting cast would be presented only as pawns for James to step over. Here, Sam (Malin Akerman), is accustomed to caring for everyone in her home, but with James’ sight comes a sense of freedom, and marital conflict. Their son’s (Skylar Gaertner) black eye also comes with questions: how much has James been left out of? It seems Sam had her own freedom with James’ blindness. A scene that follows after beautifully encapsulates the fate of their marriage. In a move that mirrors better times with heads on each others’ shoulders, James and Sam cling tightly to each other while dancing for one last time. They, as well as the audience, know it’s over. It’s a heartbreaking contradiction watching two people who loved each other so deeply say goodbye.
Little that occurs in this morality play will come as a surprise, but the events that unfold are made no less tragic by James’ hubris. At a brisk 90-plus minutes, the film’s slight running time serves as a reminder just how quickly everything can be lost. The film catches James reflecting upon his works in despair a few times too often, disappointing given the small film inside The Ticket about a crisis of faith would only benefit from some expansion.
Clearly, his post-transformation is not the ideal human condition, yet James was the very definition of humility before his restored vision, and still saw his life taken out of his hands. What was the value of his humility if he could only be preyed upon? While not ostensibly serving as a Christian film, The Ticket tackles topics that people of faith could contemplate without rejecting the wrapping it comes in. Though most of the credit for the film’s explorations belongs to Dan Stevens. His face is a veritable canvas of sorrow, ecstasy, and indignation.
Slowly, but surely, Dan Stevens has built up a solid resume from his work on Legion and films parts in The Guest and A Walk Among the Tombstones. While the Beauty and the Beast remake is guaranteed to raise Stevens’ profile, The Ticket is a showcase of how much more he has to offer. You see “a tour de force performance” thrown around a lot of blurbs, but this is one of those instances where the hype feels deserved.